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To Kobe and Michael: Playing the race card would be a mistake

Only distracts from the evidence

On Friday, during a hearing in the Bryant case over notes from a rape crisis counselor, Bryant's attorney, Pamela Mackey, said there's lots of history about black men being falsely accused of this crime by white women.  It is a statement she must have known would echo and it probably won‘t be the last time we hear it. 

In the Jackson case, his brother Jermaine has called the charges a "lynching." Family friend and sometimes spokesperson Firpo Carr has compared what the Jackson camp says was abuse of Jackson at the hands of Santa Barbara deputies to the Rodney King case.  And Jackson is now using the black separatist group, the Nation of Islam, for security… and many say for much more than that. 

But unlike the O.J. Simpson case, both Jackson and Bryant have serious defenses and a real chance of being acquitted without obscuring the facts with scurrilous race bait.  By making race an issue, their defenses will inevitably be linked with a much maligned O.J. Simpson defense. 

Before the Simpson case back in 1993, when the first allegations against Jackson surfaced, there was almost no talk of race, just about guilt or innocence. 

Then it seems the Simpson case changed everything.  Suddenly a very weak argument that Simpson was framed because of race became a rallying cry for many African American defendants.  Sure, it made white America wake up to the realities of police misconduct in other cases—but now the Simpson case is considered by most to be a national embarrassment. 

For Bryant or Jackson to formulate a defense that focuses on race is to encourage jurors and the public to focus on something other than the evidence.  In the Simpson case, that was a must because the evidence was so strong.  In these cases, you would think they would have more confidence than that. 

airs weeknights, 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC.